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Former England football player, Stuart Pearce, is backing a new social media campaign launched by the Health and Safety Executive.
He has also revealed that he too could have been exposed to asbestos when he worked as an electrician before his professional football days. The 52-year-old worked for four years as an electrician in schools, houses and industrial buildings.
Pearce said he never knew about the dangers of asbestos when he was working in the trade and that it was widely used in all kinds of buildings. He said that it is ‘chilling’ to think that he could have been exposed to asbestos without knowing.
Asbestos can still be present today in many different kinds of workplace including offices, construction sites and factories. If they were built or refurbished before the year 2000 then there is a possibility that asbestos is present. The HSE campaign is specifically targeted at tradespeople who work in buildings where there is still asbestos present. The aim is that tradespeople will become more aware of the dangers of asbestos in the places where they are working and reduce the amount of people who are suffering from asbestos-related illnesses in the future.
He added that the risks were simply not known then, he continued: “Today, there’s no excuse. Most people know how dangerous asbestos is, but many think it’s a thing of the past. It’s not. It’s still there. It can be found in walls, ceilings, even floor tiles and guttering – basically any time of building built before the year 2000.”
There are still real dangers from asbestos today even though its use has been significantly decreased. The former City player said: “Making sure you’re aware of where it can be found and how to deal with it safely, even on basic jobs like drilling holes or sanding, really could mean the difference between life and death.”
The most common way in which asbestos is dangerous to workers is when it is inhaled. If asbestos is left untouched then it is not considered to be a danger. It is only when it is dislodged from a position or moved around that the fibres become loose and airborne. This is when they can be breathed in more easily and this is why tradespeople, whose job it often is to move internal parts of a building, are most at risk. The point at which asbestos is considered to be ‘friable’ i.e. easily broken down into crumb-like particles, is when it is at its most dangerous as it is easy for these to be released into the air.
HSE statistics reveal that there are around 1.3 m people who work in a trade who are at risk of suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure and around 20 workers per week die from asbestos-related conditions. It kills more people than are killed on the roads in the UK with around 5000 each year, according to the HSE.
Pearce said: “Every tradesperson that falls victim to asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis is one too many, especially if it’s the result of ignorance. Let’s make asbestos deaths a thing of the past.”
Serious diseases can be caused after asbestos has been inhaled, however, the symptoms of an illness often do not appear until decades later. In cases of mesothelioma, there is usually on a short life expectancy following diagnosis. The most common kinds of illnesses that can develop following asbestos exposure are:
Published on 27th February 2015.